Boy killed in political violence


HARARE – A 12-year-old boy has been set ablaze in a shocking case of political violence which has heightened fears that the gory 2008 ghost is back to haunt citizens ahead of a watershed election set for later this year.

Christpower Simbarashe Maisiri of Headlands district in Manicaland Province was looking forward to returning to school today after a busy weekend in the fields.

He is dead now, after political militias burnt the hut he was sleeping in.

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC said Christpower’s father, Shepherd, is the party’s local deputy organising secretary and is on the ticket to stand as an MDC candidate in the forthcoming elections.

MP for Headlands, Didymus Mutasa, who is also the Zanu PF national secretary for administration, denied this.He said Maisiri is, in fact, a Zanu PF member.

None of this finger pointing, however, changes the fact that Christpower’s murderers were most foul and intent on wiping an entire family.

Four of Christpower’s siblings only survived the midnight attack after an elder brother sleeping in another hut smashed the door and rescued them.

Christpower was not so lucky. The blazing thatched roof collapsed before he could be rescued resulting in him burning to death.

According to relatives and witnesses who arrived at the scene after the incident, Maisiri has been a constant target of attacks by suspected Zanu PF activists in the area.

“He filed eight reports after being attacked by political rivals. This was the ninth time. The last time he was attacked was on October 20 last year,” said a neighbour.

Militias suspected of being behind the heinous murder first descended on Maisiri’s home after 7 pm Saturday night and attacked dogs, which the MDC activist was now keeping at the homestead to ward off attackers, neighbours said.

They said Maisiri was away on party business when the attack happened.

“The group came back at between 11 pm and midnight. That is when Maisiri’s wife and other family members heard an explosion.  They went out to investigate and found the hut where the five children were sleeping on fire,” said a witness close to the family.

“The elder boy smashed the door to the hut and rescued four of the children but then the roof carved in, trapping the last of the five, who happened to be Christpower.

“Maisiri called the police who promised to dispatch officers but that did not happen. At around 4 am he looked for a car and went to Rusape where he was given two details to accompany him back to Headlands,” said the witness, who spent the entire day at Maisiri’s homestead yesterday.

Mutasa told the Daily News last night that it was “impossible” for Zanu PF activists to kill Christpower, claiming Maisiri is a Zanu PF supporter.

“Yes, I know Maisiri. But there is no way he could contest against me when he is a member of my party. Yes, he comes from Chief Makoni’s area and resides in headmen Dzikiti’s village, but he is not an MDC supporter,” said Mutasa.

“In any case, I have not received such a report. The only case I heard is that of three people who died in a road accident in my constituency,” said Mutasa.

Pishai Muchauraya, the MDC spokesperson for Manicaland Province, said Maisiri was an aspiring candidate for the party in the coming elections.

 “He is one of the candidates vying for Parliament in the next elections and we think this move was orchestrated by Zanu PF supporters who want to see him out of politics,” said Muchauraya.

Douglas Mwonzora, the MDC national spokesperson, said rising cases of intimidation, harassment and outright murder as in Christpower’s case, were worrying and his party will take the matter up with regional body, Sadc.

“We are worried that this case is coming as the country prepares for a referendum, and polls and we suspect that Zanu PF wants people in Manicaland to be intimidated by this development.

“We know that Zanu PF will not go into an election without spilling blood. We are holding them accountable for the death of this child,” Mwonzora said.

He said his party expects police to arrest the suspects.

The MDC has in the past accused police of selective application of the law, claiming that cops rarely arrest Zanu PF perpetrators of violence but are quick to clamp down on the MDC and civil society groups.

“We have given the police names of people we suspect of being behind this killing,” said Mwonzora.

However, police chief spokesperson Charity Charamba, said she was unaware of the case.

This terrible killing has sent a chill down the spines of many, who fear a repeat of the 2008 election violence which the MDC claims was fronted by the military and Zanu PF activists.

With elections possibly less than six months away, the MDC says it is now looking up to African leaders, as represented by Sadc, to intervene before more blood is spilt.

“This is a demon that Sadc should deal with. We don’t want another 2008 in Zimbabwe. Zanu PF should walk the talk and show that it is sincere with its peace messages by putting an end to this behaviour,” Mwonzora said.

Sadc is heavily involved in Zimbabwe’s internal politics after acting as the mediator and guarantor of the power sharing Global Political Agreement, which saw bitter rivals Mugabe and Tsvangirai turn into uneasy coalition government partners.

Sadc has warned against a repeat of the 2008 violence, which broke out after Mugabe lost to Tsvangirai in first round voting.

A subsequent runoff turned into a farce after Tsvangirai pulled out citing violence targeted at his supporters, forcing Sadc to intervene.

“We are going to push for observers from the UN, the Africa Union, Sadc as well as other groups. It is a sad development as it might signal the start of a violet election,” Mwonzora said.

But Mutasa, speaking on behalf of Zanu PF, insisted his party’s hands are clean.

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